Elsewhere in the Zamboanga Peninsula that morning, researchers from the Regional Eagle Watch Team (REWT) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) witnessed a rare visual feast on freedom as well – a pair of the endangered Philippine Eagles in a flight of romance in the “lowland forest” of Barangay Linay, Baliguian, Zamboanga del Norte – just above the eagles’ nest.
Initially, a lone Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) flew in an ascending spiral over a forested ridge at around 10:15 a.m. in Barangay Linay, Baliguian, Zamboanga del Norte. “Shortly, a second eagle (female, as it is larger than the other) emerged from the canopy and joined the aerial display,” Jayson Ibañez, Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) field coordinator said in a press release dated August 7.
Called “mutual soaring,” this eagle flight pattern is “a form of courtship display, and is a common behavior among eagle couples who are about to lay an egg. Following the general timing of breeding among Philippine Eagles, PEF biologists believe that the pair would lay an egg September of this year,” the statement added.
Residents claim the eagles have been breeding at Linay as early as 1993. Fernando Mendoza, a Linay official who resides near the eagle nest, said the pair laid a single egg on a “Guijo” tree in 2003 and resulted in a young eagle flying out of the nest in 2004.
“The same pair again allegedly nested in 2005 on a ‘Banuang’ tree (Octomeles sumatrana) which again resulted in a successful breeding season,” the press statement said.
The last time Mendoza saw the young eagle was in October 2006 when it was playing with a dried branch that it released and caught repeatedly in mid-air.
Philippine Eagles are known to be very loyal to the places where they lay their eggs. Accordign to the press statement, “in Mount Apo, Davao City for example, an eagle pair alternately occupied 11 nest trees on the same locality since 1977.”
“Because of such high faithfulness to nesting sites, PEF has been working with the government and civil society to have these sites protected to ensure that breeding continues for the species which is on the verge of extinction” said Dennis Salvador, PEF Executive Director.
The eagle couple at Linay is the 25th pair currently known for Mindanao. Their nesting site, however, is the first confirmed in the Zamboanga Peninsula. Found at an altitude of 369 m above sea level, the Linay nesting site is the lowest recorded for Philippine Eagles in Mindanao.
The DENR in Region 9 (Western Mindanao) will be declaring the area as a Philippine Eagle “critical habitat” through RA 9147 or the Philippine Wildlife Act. “We will be working with the local government of Baliguian and Linay to give it protection and to ensure that the eagle pair will always have a safe home to mate and breed,” said Eduardo Bisquera, Jr. regional technical director of the DENR 9’s Protected Areas and Wildlife department. (MindaNews)